My talk @ IATEFL 2022

I’m thrilled face to face conferences are back! Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of online education and events, for all the affordances it offers in terms of accessibility, flexibility and alternative forms of participation and engagement, and of course how they help uphold health and safety.

But the spontaneous connections and exchanges that arise at face to face events–striking up a conversation with the person next to you at a talk, chatting informally with attendees after you present, networking with friends of friends, etc.–don’t really have a place in the world of online conferences. And so I’m glad I’m lucky enough to be in Belfast!

For my talk, I’m branching out beyond EAP and higher ed, which is my typical wheelhouse. In ‘Making the Invisible Visible: A Teacher’s Guide to Language Ideologies’ I’ll explore how to gently introduce some criticality into your teaching, via the concept of language ideologies. I was inspired by my Master’s students at Saint Mary’s University, where I teach a course called International Issues in ELT, and my doctoral research, which was rooted in critical discourse studies.

Here’s the abstract:

Making the invisible visible: a teacher’s guide to language ideologies

Language ideologies are beliefs, attitudes and ideas about language and language use commonly held in society. Though often unspoken, they shape our teaching practice. In this talk, teachers will discuss common language ideologies in ELT worldwide, and explore strategies for “making the invisible visible”: discussing and questioning language ideologies in their own classrooms and teaching practice.

Here are the slides to my talk:

Estrategias para la internacionalización del aula

¡Bienvenidos a los participantes del seminario IDEA!

Aquí pueden descargar recursos adicionales relacionados con la presentación: un traducción del marco Competencia Docente Intercultural de Dmitrov y Haque , y también los artículos completos en inglés a los que me referí durante la conferencia.

Una descripción de la sesión: Estrategias para la internacionalización del aula

He impartido una conferencia en el seminario de innovación docente IDEA de la Universidad del Desarrollo en Santiago.

Nuestros alumnos viven una realidad académica y profesional globalizada. Sabemos que incorporar una dimensión internacional o intercultural a nuestra práctica docente puede incrementar su aprendizaje y mejor prepararlos para el mundo. Pero ¿dónde empezar para internacionalizar el aula? Exploraremos estrategias y herramientas prácticas para aplicar la competencia docente intercultural en la instrucción y el diseño curricular.

La internacionalización del currículum es uno de los pillares de la UDD, y el cuerpo docente demuestra un compromiso impresionante con el proceso de incorporar elementos globales, internacionales o interculturales a su práctica docente. Siempre es un placer intercambiar ideas y aprender junto a ellos.

My Presentation @ IATEFL 2021

The IATEFL Conference is this weekend!

I’d rather be back in Harrogate, soaking in all the Yorkshire vibes and re-living IATEFL 2014, the last IATEFL to be held in Harrogate (it was an action-packed conference). But online is the next best thing and I look forward to not having to overcome jet lag.

Check out the conference program(me) online here.

I present on Saturday at 3:35pm UK time / 11:35am Halifax time. Here’s my talk description; slides aren’t quite finished yet but I’ll put them up soon. 😉

Defining “Good Writing”: Ideology in Canadian University Language Policy

The textual characteristics of good academic writing are communicated via language policies at many Canadian universities. Correction keys, marking codes, grading criteria or rubrics at the course, departmental, faculty or institutional level guide the teaching and assessment of academic writing. These descriptions of good writing on the lexical, grammatical and organizational level are not neutral, however; in many cases they embody covert attitudes and ideologies around “writtenness” (Turner, 2018) that place value on a specific type of academic writing. In the plurality of Englishes thriving in the linguistically-diverse setting of the contemporary Anglophone Canadian university, these policies around “good writing” often centre certain Englishes while marginalizing others. In this session, participants will critically examine commonly-held definitions of “good writing”. We will unpack the covert attitudes and ideologies that influence how we teach and evaluate academic writing in linguistically-diverse higher education settings. After presenting the concept of “writtenness” and related ideologies, a case study of a discursive analysis of piece of language policy from a Canadian university will be presented. Then, the role of teachers in implementing, appropriating and resisting language policy will be discussed. Alternatives for teaching and policy-making around academic writing for practitioners in higher education contexts will be proposed.

Turner, J. (2018). On writtenness: The cultural politics of academic writing. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Here are the slides:

Fuelling Discursive Change

One of the biggest criticisms you can level at a researcher is the accusation that they and their work live in an ivory tower–that their work has no effect on society. Critical discourse studies (and other areas of applied linguistics) may be criticized for being nothing more butterfly collecting if there is no application of findings to some area of applied linguistics practice. So you’ve mapped and discussed in detail all these discourses in policies or education or the media or society: but so what? What should be done with that information?

My goal as a practitioner-researcher has always been to bridge the theory-practice gap. My doctoral thesis had a large section devoted to recommendations and suggestions for practice: how language and literacy stakeholders in Anglophone higher education contexts might use my findings of what discourses are prominent and influential in Canadian higher ed to effect change. This change might be to policy, curriculum or practices. How do we get to that change? Critical linguistic and discursive awareness-raising in the context of a professional development course is one route.

So this what my colleague Dr. Erin Careless and I did recently. We designed and delivered a workshop called Tools and Techniques to Support Linguistic Diversity to an group of adult educators: teachers, trainers and facilitators from the health, education and government sectors. Here’s the description:

Here’s the description:

Adult learning environments in Canada have become increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse over the last decade. Linguistic diversity in the classroom—whether that means different languages, dialects, and/or levels of comprehension across the same language—can pose new challenges to the way we serve learners and also open new educational horizons and possibilities. In this interactive workshop, you will learn a range of techniques, strategies and tools to support linguistic diversity in your teaching, training or facilitation context, and more effectively achieve learning outcomes for learners of all linguistic backgrounds.

We covered a lot of ground in the workshop, focusing in on the language-related aspects of Universal Design for Learning and Culturally-Responsive Pedagogy, talking about Plain Language and a variety of common tech tools. But overarching the workshop were the three orientations in language planning language Ruiz (1984). One of the strengths of this framework which accounts for its enduring popularity is that the orientations of Language as Problem and Language as Resource are quite straightforward and easy to understand without any background in applied linguistics.

So I introduced the concept of language ideologies/discourses (no, I didn’t get into the distinction between the two in a short workshop for non-linguists 😉) and how they influence how our attitudes, behaviours and values around languages, language users and language use in our institutions. Then I presented an abridged version of Language as Problem and Language as Resource, and we set as an objective for the workshop to look for areas in each of our realms of professional practice where we might “shift the frame” around language from problem to resource. I connected the various sections of the workshop and learning activities we did back to this discursive shift.

Feedback on the workshop overall was positive, and the workshop participants seemed to grasp these concepts and contributed lots of discussion and ideas throughout the workshop about shifting these discourses. For me, it was really fun and fulfilling to bring such as central aspect of my doctoral research into the classroom in this way.

Five things I learned in 2020

2020 was a wild one, wasn’t it? As I dealt with a tumultuous unpredictability both professionally and personally from March onward, I found myself withdrawing a bit from the digital world: tweeting less, blogging less. But after a bit of distance, now I’m getting back into my online life (though still trying to keep the doomscrolling in check).

Despite everything I was really busy last year with a lot of new projects. In these first months of 2021, I’ve been reflecting on the last year, and realizing that I learned so much! Here are five important takeaways for me.

  1. Being an editor doesn’t necessarily involve much editing. Carole MacDiarmid and I are (first-time) co-editors of an academic volume entitled Pedagogies in English for Academic Purposes: Teaching and Learning in International Contexts (on shelves in August 2021!). With the proposal for the book accepted and the contributors lined up in 2019, in 2020 chapters were submitted to us, and we went through rounds of review and revision before submitting the full manuscript in December. Although the title “editor” for me had previously conjured up images of making a paper bleed with red ink, there was very little work directly on authors’ writing or texts involved! I would describe the role as being a project manager with lots of subject knowledge and expertise. I had of course worked with editors before as an author, but it was great to learn this first-hand.
  2. The dark side of ELT is alive and well. I had a blast teaching a Master’s course called International Issues in English Language Teaching at Saint Mary’s University to a group of language teachers from different contexts around the world. We discussed critical issues in ELT—native speakerism, colonialism, racism, neoliberalism, etc.—and how these influence methods, materials, assessment, policies and instruction. And lest anyone think that these issues are not a big deal anymore (Canagarjah’s Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Language Teaching came out in 1999, that problem must now be solved, right????), my students would tell you differently. These nefarious forces are being battled every day, in ways big and small, in educators’ teaching practice the world over.
  3. The need to move from a monolingual to a multilingual “default” student in teacher education. I taught a Master’s course on MSVU’s TESOL Program this summer (Technology in Language Education) where I had a group of keen and engaged teachers, most of whom were working in primary and secondary contexts here in Canada or abroad. The majority of the teachers weren’t language teachers–they taught various other subjects but were enrolled in the TESOL program and/or the course out of a desire to be able to better serve the multilingual students in their classes. Nowhere in their previous teacher training were they taught how to deal with linguistic diversity in their classes, be it with newcomers or EAL students in their classes in an Anglo Canadian context, or students in an immersion or CLIL setting here or elsewhere. As these teachers shared with me, and as discussed in this recent ACLA/CAAL talk, there is an urgent need to stop training teachers around the idea of the “default” student in their classes being a monolingual Anglophone, with multilingual students being some sort of anomaly. We should acknowledge the multilingual nature of our schools and communities across Canada (it’s not just in large cities!) and center multilingual students and multilingualism and, importantly, provide all teachers with the tools to support multilingual students.
  4. Teaching in an additional language is hard. I mean, duh, I knew this long before 2020. But I led an online professional development course in the internationalization of teaching and learning for faculty in Latin America in Spanish called Innovación pedagógica en contextos de internacionalización. I designed, developed and taught the course alongside two colleagues. I’d done talks and presentations before in my additional languages, but never a whole course. It was great fun and I learned A TON (like the word for the little gear icon, or how to talk about outcomes and scaffolding and Universal Design in Spanish!). Most of all, it gave me tons of additional insight into teaching in an additional language that I’ll bring to Dalhousie’s Professional Development Certificate in English-Medium Instruction as we prepare to expand its offerings.
  5. Everything takes so much longer online. Like practically everyone at every institution everywhere the “pivot to online” occupied a huge part of my year professionally. A major thing I (and many others) have learned is that every part of online education takes longer online: for teachers, it’s designing and building courses, prepping for and teaching synchronously, designing and correcting assessments and exams and delivering feedback. For students, it takes longer to get into breakout rooms for groupwork and carry out those tasks, student assignments take longer to complete online. Online education presents so many affordancesaccessibility and flexibility top among them for mebut we’ve all had to adapt and adjust as we’ve come to the realization about how long things take.

Tech in Language Ed: Reading List

I designed and taught an online Master’s course called Technology in Language Education at Mount Saint Vincent University this summer. It was a great learning experience: it was my first time teaching that particular course and first time taking care of the design, build and delivery of a fully online course myself. It was mostly asynchronous, with synchronous course meetings at the beginning, midterm and end of the course. I have a lot of reflection to share on various aspects of the course, but I’ll start with sharing my reading list. (Well, reading and viewing list, because variety of forms of representation of course material, etc.)

I’ve marked ***with asterisks*** the readings or videos that students in the course really engaged with or which stimulated lots of lively conversation and debate.

Why technology in language education?
• Thornbury, S. (2016). The Mouse that Roared. British Council Armenia 2016 Teacher Development Program. Retrieved from:

CALL, MALL and Beyond: From Past to Present in Ed Tech for Languages Education

  • Lomicka, L., & Lord, G. (2019). Reframing Technology’s Role in Language Teaching: A Retrospective Report. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 39, 8–23.
  • Rosell-Aguilar, F. (2017). State of the app: A taxonomy and framework for evaluating language learning mobile applications. CALICO Journal, 34(2), 3243–258.

Technology and Skills Teaching 1: Listening and Speaking

Technology and Skills Teaching 2: Reading, Writing and Grammar

Gaming and Engagement in Language Education

Frameworks in Tech and Language Education

Are Teachers Obsolete? Tech and Learner Autonomy

The Mobile Learning Revolution

Solving the Access Problem: Online Language Learning

  • White, C. J. (2017). Distance language teaching with technology. In C. A. Chapelle & S. Sauro (Eds.), The Handbook of Technology and Second Language Teaching and Learning (pp. 134–148). Wiley Blackwell.
  • ****Gacs, A., Goertler, S., & Spasova, S. (2020). Planned online language education versus crisis-prompted online language teaching: Lessons for the future. Foreign Language Annals, 53(2), 380–392.
  • Bates, A. W. (2015). Chapter 4.3: The ADDIE Model. In Teaching in a Digital Age. Tony Bates Associates Ltd.

Best Practices for Online Design and Delivery

Joey and the Thesaurus

I can’t believe I’d never come across the episode with Friends where Joey gets a thesaurus! This episode would be so great as part of a lesson teaching dictionary and thesaurus skills. You could cover issues of register, the issue of translating multi-word phrases, common vs. proper nouns, and avoiding the “word salad” phenomenon of stringing words together that don’t make sense on the sentence level.

Friends hasn’t aged well on many levels, but this clip could still work well in the classroom.

Hat tip to Fiona for telling me about this.

EAP Online: Helpful Resources

Before COVID-19, I will admit I didn’t know a whole lot about teaching EAP or any language online. Using technology to complement face-to-face teaching had long been an interest of mine, but best practices for designing and delivering a 100% online EAP course was a new area for me. But, when the pandemic hit, there was no time to sit around twiddling our thumbs–as a department, we had to proceed with first emergency remote teaching to finish up the winter semester, and then transition of all our English language courses and programs to online mode, as soon as possible.

EAP in higher education institutions falls into this weird space (third space? :), as it draws from pedagogies in higher ed as well as those from more general English language teaching. So in terms of tips, tricks and advice for online teaching and learning, there are two pools of information to be drawn from, which is great. But you have to filter out what’s irrelevant for EAP teaching (i.e. online assessment for biology labs or first-year classes of 200 students; or tips for teaching English online via CLIL to young learners).

So where did I go? I have learned a lot about online education in the last few months from a variety of people and sources:

  • Dalhousie CCE instructional designers Tracy Franz, Saira Akhtar-Alwazeer and my other colleagues at Dal ESL have shared a lot of knowledge and expertise.
  • Twitter, as always has been a great source of professional development and knowledge. In particular, lots of useful stuff has come through via the hashtags #AcademicChatter for general HE, #CdnELTChat for general ELT and #tleap for EAP-specific discussions.
  • There was an amazing #CdnELTChat held on May 12 (summary here) with instructional designer Linda Manimtim where there was a great discussion about applying the principles of instructional design to language teaching.
  • The BALEAP email listserv has a lot of lively discussions, and the BALEAP TELSIG has held several webinars and events around online EAP.
  • For resources on academic integrity in online courses, Sarah Elaine Eaton’s blog and webinars are great.
  • Universities’ Centres for Learning and Teaching/Teaching Excellence, etc. (they seem to be called something different at every institution), such as Dal’s Centre for Learning and Teaching, have great blog posts, Twitter discussions and webinars about online teaching and learning in HE.
  • Nathan Hall’s blog is an amazing resource on individual digital tools and other aspects of online teaching and learning of languages.

I recently did a workshop for teachers at East Coast Language College about teaching English online, where I could share some of this knowledge I’ve gained and discuss the experiences we’ve had at Dalhousie as we’ve transitioned more than 1000 hours of EAP and ESP curriculum to 100% online. Here are the slides from that talk:

Defending your Thesis Remotely

I recently defended my doctoral thesis remotely! This was supposed to be a face-to-face defense (or viva, short for viva voce exam, as they call it in the UK) at the UCL Institute of Education in London, which suddenly had to be turned into a remote viva once travel restrictions prevented me from leaving the country.

I know there are a lot of others out there with defenses/vivas scheduled in the coming weeks and months that may end up having to do them online. Here are some of my tips for defending your thesis remotely.

Think of it as an event, and you’re the producer. With a face-to-face defense, you don’t have a lot of control over the physical aspects of the experience. You show up to a certain room at a certain time, do your defense, and go. But with a remote defense, you can be in control of almost everything–short of the questions that examiners ask you, of course! The room, facilities, technology, etc. are all within your control.

Pretend you’re filming a movie or staging a play and think about all elements of the experience from the point of view of the examiners. Think about every link in the chain, and what is needed for it to function smoothly. And similar to the performing arts, practice makes perfect–make sure you rehearse not just the answers to your viva questions, but rehearse using your whole technical set up. Here’s what I tried to think about before my viva:

  • Staging and composition. I really think that if your image is coming through into the examiners’ computers clearly with minimal distractions, the examiners can better focus on what you’re saying. On the other hand, if the backdrop is chaotic, or you are looking into the camera at a weird angle, or if it’s hard to see or hear you, then it sets a negative tone for the session and will detract from your research. Set up your computer and do a video call to a friend or snap a few photos with your webcam to see the the angle of the camera and also what the backdrop is. Do you have to put your computer up on some books so that you can look straight into the camera rather than down or up your nose? Do you have to shift some furniture in the background or hang a sheet (no really!) to cover up a distracting or unprofessional background? I shifted a few pieces of furniture so a lovely oil painting of the Nova Scotia coast could be the background during my viva.

    And the best part of a viva via webcam is that you can have all sorts of notes, cheat sheets, motivational posters, luck charms, photos of celebrities–whatever you need–around and with you during the viva, just out of frame of the webcam. Even more than what you would take into a F2F defense. So make sure you have a good set up with enough space to spread out what you need.
  • Lighting. Lighting really influences the quality of the image your examiners will be speaking to during the defense. The goal should be a clear image so that the examiners don’t have to strain to see, and therefore focus on you. Don’t have a light source behind you because your face will be dark. Place a light outside the frame of the webcam, perhaps behind your computer, so you’ll be looking into it and it will illuminate your face. The important thing is to test it out beforehand and adjust as needed.
  • Sound. Sound is really important because it’s how you will hear the questions, and how the examiners will hear your responses to them! In most situations you have two options for your microphone: the microphone built into the webcam, or an external microphone, for example, on a headset or cellphone earbuds. (I use something like this.) If you’re in a large, echo-y room, I would recommend using an external mic as it will be closer to your mouth and will make the sound quality better. For the in-coming sound, it’s the same–you can either use your computer speakers, or connect headphones or earbuds to the computer. It’s a good idea to always have headphones/earbuds on hand in case the in-coming sound on your computer is so loud it’s being picked up by the microphone, and will cause the examiners to hear your voice in echo. This is very distracting and unpleasant, so if this starts to happen, you’ll want to plug in your headphones to stop it. Like the camera image, you’ll want to test out the sound aspect of your set up with a friend beforehand.
  • Eye Contact. Remember that you have to look into the webcam to make eye contact with the people on the other end of the video conference, rather than looking at their eyes as they appear in their images on your screen. This is one I always forget, so during my viva I put a bright post-it note with the two examiners’ names right above my webcam, so I’d be reminded to look at it instead of my screen. Others put a pair of googly eyes or some other thing by their webcam lens as a reminder. Just make sure it’s not blocking the camera!

The Tech!

This is the aspect of the remote defense that strikes fear in the heart of most! There are three aspects of the tech related to a remote defense that you have to think about, set up, troubleshoot, and make several back-up plans for: the hardware (your device), the software (the program you’ll be using to make the call) and the internet connection. If you’re less than confident about tech, try to find someone who will help you get a primary set up and a backup ready, and who might be on hand during your defense just in case you need some tech help. That’s another advantage of the remote viva–you can have your whole entourage waiting in the wings to support you and no one will know!

  • For hardware, be it a desktop computer, laptop or phone, make sure it’s all up to date so that it doesn’t randomly shut off to install an update in the middle of your defense. Make sure there aren’t any embarrassing or weird files on your desktop if you’re planning to share your screen. And make sure you know the password to get back into the computer if it does restart just before or during the defense. Make sure you know how to silence or shut off all alerts and notifications for the duration of the viva so that you (and the examiners) aren’t being distracted or interrupted by dings and beeps or notification pop-ups. Have a backup device on hand that you could use in a pinch to do the exam if your primary device dies at the last minute–for example having your phone ready to use if your laptop stops working.
  • For software, the choice of video conferencing program is a big decision. In some cases, the university might dictate which program to use. If personal video-calling software such as Skype is suggested, push back on it. Try to get a more professional option that is made for meetings or online education (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect, etc.). They have a more professional interface, and functionality such as screen sharing, the ability to present a Powerpoint, etc. that you will need for your defense. Install the software on your primary device as well as your backup in advance, and have any logins saved in the device (so you’re not scrambling on the day of trying to remember passwords under pressure). It’s important to rehearse using whichever program in advance so you get used to where all the controls and buttons are so that when you’re nervous during the viva, you can still do what you need to do, and don’t accidentally disconnect the call while trying to raise the volume or put your PPT on the screen.
  • For the internet, if you can, connect to your modem via a cable, rather than relying on Wifi. It’s definitely worth buying an inexpensive ethernet cable (and any necessary adapters for your laptop) to do this if possible as it will make your connection much faster. If not, try to find a spot where the Wifi is strong, and be aware that if others are using the internet connection to do bandwidth-heavy tasks such as gaming, streaming videos or making video calls, it will slow down the connection for you. As for backup, if the Wifi gave out, or was inexplicably slow and causing an unreliable video connection, would you consider switching to your phone and using cellphone data for the defense? Video conferencing uses between 270-600MB/hour, depending on the program used. So if you have a good data plan, it might be worth considering it as a backup.

Remember, for the remote viva, you’re in control! Good luck and break a leg, everyone!

“Beyond ‘English-Only’: Creating Effective and Equitable Program Language Policy” @ Languages Canada 2020

February 25 is my talk at the Languages Canada conference, entitled “Beyond ‘English-Only’: Creating Effective and Equitable Program Language Policy”.

Here’s a description of the talk:

“English-only” policies—where use of students’ first language (L1) in the classroom is associated with a punitive response—are common in many English language programs. Received wisdom has long framed a monolingual “English-only” environment in many contexts as the most effective way to maximize English language use, and thereby promote the development of fluency, confidence, and communicative and strategic competence that may come with it. However, increasing research shows the advantage of moving away from a monolingual approach to a multi- or plurilingual approach, which gives space to all the languages in a student’s linguistic repertoire along with English, including their L1. Research shows well-implemented policies of this nature can contribute to more effective and deeper language learning via increased target language use, motivation, and agency.

In this presentation, participants will discover some of the latest research findings showing the increased learning outcomes, motivation and equity associated with plurilingual classroom and course policies in different ELT settings. We will also explore some of the challenges in developing and implementing such policies with teachers and students through a case study from a Canadian English language school.

I cite a few articles in the talk; links are below. Here is a link to the CEFR 2017 Companion volume. Both the selection of very recent research on plurilingual approaches in Canadian HE and EAP are great reads, as is Hall and Cook’s (2012) state of the art articles on own-language use in ELT.